The impact a forward head position has on the blood flow to the brain is clinically observable by taking the carotid pulses:  

  • When the head is in a forward position, the carotid pulses are weaker
  • When the head is over the spine, the carotid pulses are stronger

Positional compression of the carotid arteries can result from a forward head position.

A Forward Head Position Can Lead to Central Nervous System Dysfunctions

Investigators at Northwestern University's School of Medicine (Baliki et al 2008) discovered an alteration in brain function in people suffering from chronic pain. They feel that this alteration in brain (CNS) function may explain how chronic pain can trigger such symptoms as insomnia, depression, anxiety and/or mental sluggishness.

Baliki et al further explained that the front region of the brain, in a person suffering from chronic pain, is consistently active. This, they suggest, will prematurely wear out the neurons, altering their connections to one another. They believe this may lead not only to the symptoms above, but also to permanent brain damage.

Recent research has suggested that focal areas of hyperactivity within the cerebral cortex (CNS) may result from ischemia (decreased blood flow) due to a positional compression of the carotid arteries on either side of the neck.

Compressing these carotid arteries can diminish the flow of blood to the brain much like a kink in a water hose can diminish the flow of water through the water hose (Rothbart 2009). Forward head position can lead to debilitating symptoms within the brain.  Diminished blood flow can lead to cellular death in the brain.  The end result are symptoms such as insomnia, depression, anxiety and/or mental sluggishness and finally, permanent brain damage.
   

Rear View of the Head and Neck.

The red arrows point to the vertebral arteries.  When the head is in a forward position, the verebral arteries are more susceptible to being compressed. This compression can dramatically decrease the blood flow to the brain. 

In summation, in a forward head position, the brain may not be receiving sufficient blood flow and oxygen due to compression of the vertebral arteries.  If this compression is severe enough, it can result in cerebral ischemia (CNS dysfunction).  Clinically what we see is disturbed sleeping patterns, increased anxiety and mental sluggishness.

When the head is in its correct position (directly over the spine) and the brain is receiving sufficient blood flow and oxygen, brain function improves. Clinically, what we see is improvement in sleeping, anxiety abating, mental alacrity improving and a greater sense of well-being.

Forward Head Position

Forward Head Position  
This forward head position is frequently part of a postural distortional pattern resulting from a Rothbarts Foot or PreClinical Clubfoot Deformity

References

     Baliki MN, Geha PY, Apkarian V, et. Al. 2008. Beyond Feeling: Chronic Pain Hurts the Brain, Disrupting the Default-Mode Network Dynamics. Journal Neuroscience. 28(6):1398-1403.
     Rothbart BA 2009. A forward head position can lead to debilitating symptoms in the brain. Heal Yourself Magazine, July 25